Although Matt Wallner provided the walk-off single to lift USM past Rice 8-7 in 12 innings, there were heroes up and down the Golden Eagle lineup in Saturday’s come-from-behind win.
Southern Miss found themselves in quite a predicament after the Owls scored six runs in the top of the eighth inning to take a 7-2 lead.
After registering zero runs in the eighth, USM was down to its last out in the bottom of the ninth.
With the bases loaded, Casey Maack roped one to right field but it was directly to the Rice outfielder. However, the sun shielded his vision and the ball dropped, allowing the bases to clear as USM inched within a 7-5 deficit.
Following a walk by LeeMarcus Boyd, junior Luke Reynolds stepped to the plate as a pinch-hitter. The Mississippi State transfer sat out the entire game up to that point, nursing a minor injury to his hamstring suffered on Friday.
Reynolds delivered with a deep line drive to center, a two-run single that tied the game at 7-7.
“About the sixth inning, I put my cleats on and everybody was like, ‘Why are you putting your cleats on?’ Reynolds said. “‘You’re not going to be able to hit.’ I told coach [Scott] Berry, ‘Pinch-hit, if you need me, I got you.’ [I] just was locked in from then on, just waiting for that moment. When it happened, I already mentally visualized it. That’s one of those moments you dream of as a kid. Luckily I got a pitch I could hit and got a barrel to it so that was awesome.”
“What a great pinch-hit by Luke Reynolds,” Berry said. “Giving you the Kirk Gibson basically scenario, limping up there. He was good for one at-bat and he gave us a quality one for sure.”
USM pitchers J.C. Keys, Adam Jackson and Mason Strickland combined to hold Rice scoreless in extra innings before the Eagles’ window of opportunity opened in the bottom of the 12th inning.
Sophomore Matt Wallner roped one past the second baseman to score Jaylon Keys for the game-winning run as the Eagles completed an 8-7 win and series win over the Owls.
“Just tried to literally take a singles approach, get a single there after a swung a little too hard at that first change-up and kind of looked like an idiot,” Wallner said. “Just kind of battle it out and got a pitch to hit there 3-2 [count].”
“I’m very grateful for the effort and the belief and the willingness to go ahead and take it ‘til the final out has been called,” Berry said.
Southern Miss (19-6, 6-1 Conference USA) looks for the series sweep at 1 p.m. on Easter Sunday. Walker Powell (2-1) gets his second Sunday start for the Golden Eagles.